Rainbow Falls

Day 2 of Glamping:

Almost up early to beat the mid-day heat for our hike to Rainbow Falls, our plans now included a necessary return trip via our same path, as the shuttle to/from Reds Meadow was not scheduled to run till 5pm that Friday. It was Thursday. Not to worry, Mammoth Lakes offers a hearty trail system and a route to Rainbow Falls from Horseshoe Lake via the Mammoth Pass Trail. Normally we would take the Reds Meadow Shuttle from the Mammoth Mountain Lodge (for a fee of now $9/adult), get off at Shuttle stop #9, and spend the day in Reds Meadow with an “easy” 2.5 mile (3.5, if we went to Lower Falls) round trip hike to Rainbow Falls. As this was not an option, we would hike the 5.5 miles down to Rainbow Falls via the Mammoth Pass Trail out of Horseshoe Lake, and return the same way, making it an 11 mile day. Brian would not be joining us on this particular hike as his sinuses were killing him, a possible adverse effect of the current altitude.

Brian (and Russell) dropped us off around 9 am, with instructions to pick us about 4pm…with cold beers. As with all hikes and trails for us, it started with an uphill trek. Within minutes our lungs were searing, as we gulped for air, and stopped periodically over the .08 mile, 362 ft climb to the top of Mammoth Pass at 9,423 ft. Needless to say we felt rather pathetic with regard to our lack of acclimatization and more specifically our inadequate level of hiking fitness. Nevertheless we soldiered on, smiling sheepishly at, and stepping aside for, the swift footed PCT and JMT hikers coming from and going into town via the Mammoth Pass Trail.

Once cresting the Pass, we enjoyed a clear breathtaking view of the narrow valley below that houses the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River.

In August of 1992 a lightning strike fire ripped through the hillside and valley we were descending into. This led to even more devestating damage nearly 20 years later when in November of 2011 the “Devils Windstorm” with winds upwards of 200 mph gusted through this area, snapping 2-4 foot diameter trees in half like matchsticks, creating a cascading effect of damage, which left the valley looking like a giant’s personal game of ‘Pick up Sticks’. We continued to descend, amazed at how “deserted” the trail was. We felt like we had the forest all to ourselves, especially once we reached the normally tourist clogged trail to Rainbow Falls.

Once at the falls, we discovered that the trail down to the base of the falls was still under repair, and after talking with the work crew, we learned that the full repair would not be completed for this summer season. Rainbow Falls is a 101 ft tall falls whose mist creates a rainbow effect in the sunlight. If you look closely you can see the point from where these falls “originally” fell, having worn down and eroded nearly 500 feet of solid rock. The power of water is amazing. The surge of water cascading over the edge of rock and down into deep pool is the heaviest flow we have seen this time of year, due I’m sure to the current hot weather that is quickly melting the late accumulation of snow. We lingered here a bit and had lunch, dreading the 3.5 mile uphill climb back to whence we came. We considered taking a “flatter” route via Reds Meadow, past Devil’s Postpile toward Agnew Meadows and up the Postpile Road to the main Lodge at Mammoth, but that route in itself was 11 miles, and still included a hill climb (on asphault) in the middle of the day. Normally we would have preferred to NOT hike through an exposed area at high noon, but if we were going to meet Brian by 4pm, we had to get going. As we marched uphill, we did so, using the sparse patches of shade as our motivation.

A doe looked at us incredulously, as we huffed past her, interrupting her mid day snack. Several PCT hikers and a few JMT hikers skipped past us (both uphill and down) with packs either “empty” or fully loaded for their next leg. The point is that they skipped by us. As we neared the top of the pass, shady areas became more frequent, and Jody was soon introduced to the concept of “false summits”, for as everytime, we thought we were to the “top”, there was yet, one more (actually 4) more uphills! Considering we were fairly gassed, we were amazed at how little time it actually took to crush the day’s 11 miles. Maybe it was the thought of ice cold beer (or in Jody’s case,a Diet Coke) at the end of our day’s trek that motivated us. It didn’t much matter. We we’d seen beautiful sights, and burned some calories in the process. A day well spent!

As we waited for Brian, Jody scrolled through her Garmin watch that records not only her trek, but her heart rate, and exclaimed, “168 beats per minute! No wonder it was so hard to catch my breath.” If Jody’s heart was racing that fast, I figured mine was probably similar, good thing we took plenty of breaks and I forced myself to consume a super saturated blast of electrolytes to keep the electrical rhythm of my heart at a proper pace and cadence. For me, anything over 159-164 beats per minute means that my heart may get stuck on “fast”, and that is not a good thing.

Soon Brain arrived, cold beers (and a Diet Coke) in tow. Next stop, Mammoth Brewing Company and a round of Cornhole, followed by Slocum’s and their Happy Hour $5 cheeseburger w/fries and ice cold beer on tap, to also include $2 PBR bottles ALL DAY. PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) beer. On our PCT thru-hike it seemed that PBR was the go to thru-hiker” beer, not sure why but it was, but had we’d been on a thru-hike, PBR would have been consumed. I will say though, that everytime we see a bottle or can of PBR, it immediately conjures up memories from our PCT thru-hike. With our daily exercise and now dinner complete, all that was left to do for the night was beat Brian at Mexican Train, and plan our next day’s hike/adventure.

*I didn’t beat Brain. Paul won, not that he gloated or anything, and next on the hiking list is McGee Creek, of which we have been wanting to do for some time now.

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Glamping

This past week we returned to Mammoth Lakes and met up with our long time friends, Brian and Jody (of “Magnificent 7“) both of whom who had joined us on the Trans Catalina Trail 2 years ago. On this joint adventure there would be no tents or dehydrated food, but there would be hiking. Early afternoon Tuesday (the best day for road trips) we pulled into the Mammoth RV park, paid our 4 night fee ($50/night) and motored over to our patch of asphault, complete with water, power, WiFi, and even cable (who does that?). A stone’s throw away was the full service restroom, complete with hot showers and a laundromat. Better yet, Brian and Jody had already arrived and had dinner and ice cold beers waiting. A true Glamping experience, at least for us, where most of our adventures involve a tent and some form of braving the “elements”. While we have stayed at this RV park before, it was mainly to escape blizzard conditions this past ski season, and to “thaw out” with a hot shower, after practically freezing ones ass.

(photo courtesy of Jody)

After dinner we continued our catching up. Brian and Jody, who used to live near us, sold their home and have been living in their luxurious tow behind trailer for nearly a year now. We aspire to be like them some day. As we talked and solved the world’s problems, we roughed out the next three day’s glamping activities. We decided that the next morning that it would be a good idea for Brian and Jody to acclimate to the altitude, having spent the last 6 months, essentially at sea level, thus we would drive over and circumnavigate the 167 acre, naturally fed, Convict lake, and maybe even fish a bit.

We wandered back to our Alaskan Camper, which is a low profile cab over camper that fits into our Dodge’s 8 foot bed. My father gave us this camper when he upgraded to a newer Alaskan. Ours is over 30 years old, and after having lived exclusively in an ultra lite tent for over 5 consecutive months thru-hiking the PCT in 2014, it is still quite luxurious to us. A (now) fully insulated enclosure with running water, a three burner stove, an oven, a fridge, actual utensils/cups/plates/pots and pans, a pantry, limited storage, a “dining area” (that converts to a second sleeping berth), a heater, and electricity all add up to some “easy living”. Since we were Glamping in an RV park, there was no need to break out the shovel and set up the 5 gallon bottomless bucket and toilet seat for “nature’s call”. As we retreated to the confines of our camper, we remarked how nice it was to not be in an RV park next to the railroad and how quiet it was…until, we noticed a constant electrical humming of a generator. Puzzled, we wondered why one would be using a generator if they had access to electrical hook-ups, then we realized it was the hum of nearby Mammoth Lakes Hospital’s generator, opposite our site. Go figure! About that time, the interior of our camper lit up like being in a tent on a full moon. Seems our site also had “street lamp” that finally worked its way on, well after all the other “street lights” throughout the campground. We solved that problem quickly with our make-shift foam winter window insulator, and would later put that evening light to good use during the next two night’s raucous dominos matches of Mexican Train.

As with all vacations, the intent and ability to “sleep in” is always on the agenda, but internal clocks, as they are, don’t necessarily go on “vacation”. We did our best to putter around and delay doing something “meaningful” in order to allow Brian and Jody to “sleep in”, the next morning. Ironically, they were doing the same for us. As a result, it was well into the morning before we finally got on the road to Convict Lake.

This was of course after we had to make a mad dash from Brian and Jody’s site, to close up our camper in order keep a wandering/curious bear from “moving in”. After a relatively short ride from Mammoth to Convict Lake, we lucked out and found a parking space on the west side of the lake. [This lake was originally known to the Piuate Indians as “Wit-sa-nap”, referring to the fact that they believed the lake was inhabited by “magical fish”, which in some cases is true, as this lake produces some “hog” size trout, both rainbow and german browns. It’s name changed in 1871, following a shootout with escaped convicts from Carson City. The two nearby highest mountains are named in honor of two posse members (Robert Morrison, Mono Jim) who were killed in the shootout. Those who have watched commercials for Nature’s Valley granola bars, or seen the 1998 film, Star Trek:Insurrection, the 1962 highly acclaimed film ‘How The West Was Won’, or the 1951 film ‘The Secret of Convict Lake’ might recognize scenes involving Convict Lake.]

From here we would follow a well worn and maintained 2mile trail that circumnavigates the lake. Brian and Jody brought along their dog, Russell, who loves the water. Russell did his best to drag first Jody, then Brian into the water. We have been told that the northwest end of the lake, where the creek feeds into the lake is the most successful place to fish, so when we arrived at that end we stopped for lunch and decided to try our luck. It was not the optimal time to fish, but any chance to toss a line in the water is a good thing. As we broke out our gear, Russell patrolled the shoreline, unbenownst to us apparently consuming a fair amount of floating parcels of Powerbait, which would later render him fairly listless and miserable. While not being exceptionally good at fly fishing, my ADHD brain prefers this form of fishing to spin casting. Paul, on the other hand would rather spin cast. His ability, however, to adequately cast was severely limited when he discovered, in his haste to pack one of our two, two-piece fishing rods, that he had put the reel ends from both rods in his pack. Had the lake been iced over, it would have been the perfect length. This, however, did not dissuade him from attempting to fish. ( I wish I had a picture of this, but poor Jody is currently in a “black hole” of communications and could not send me one of her many pictures) Once all set up, I waded waist-deep into the refreshingly cool water and did my best to NOT “tie” knots in the air, as I tried to extend the cast of my fly into the lake with a now increasing head wind. With that said, I definitely need to practice more…in less than optimal conditions. Having no success, and a now stiff head wind, it was time to walk the remaining mile around the lake, back to Brian’s truck.

Russell was less than enthusiastic about heading back, as the trail (made up of crushed and course granite rocks) was now extremely hot, and after a short while got carried, to avoid burning his pads. Once back at camp, we dined on a magnificent venison meal prepared by Jody.

Fully satiated, and having switched from beer to “gluten free” spirits, it was time for a rousing game of dominos… specifically, Mexican Train. Bear in mind there is no love loss between the four of us, and certainly NO allegiances, whilst playing this now blurry spotted game. During some rounds an abacus would of been helpful to add up the points still held. Prior to retiring for the night, the next day’s activities were roughly outlined. A hike to Rainbow Falls was in order.

…to be continued.

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Lemonade out of Lemons.

So after Mexican food and margaritas at Roberto’s in Mammoth Lakes, and a fitful night’s sleep at the Quality Inn…we were actually too warm, we headed with our son and his girlfriend to Yosemite Valley to pick up his truck. I’m not going to lie, we were a little bummed to have cut this adventure short, and we’re wondering if we were being pussies and/or a little too cautious. Considering that one of the girl’s newly purchased mircospikes was defective and required an on-trail “McGyver” repair, and that their sleeping bags were NOT living up to their temperature rating, as well as the fact that one of the girls was sporting nasty and painful heal blisters, we WERE, working on a recipe for disaster.

Still, it wasn’t until rain hit our windshield, and the outside temperature gauge read 34° as we drove through the East entrance of Yosemite that we began to feel even more justified with our decision. The mountains to our left (that included Donahue Pass) were engulfed in a giant dark cloud. If it was 34° here, what un-godly temperature was it at Donahue Pass, and what would it have been trompsing through to Cathedral Pass and then down to Yosemite Valley? I suspect we would have been working on a good case of trench foot by then.

As we continued on Tioga Rd toward Yosemite Valley, and Half Dome Village, all of the Tuoloumne area was swallowed up in a dense fog. As we passed the lookout at Olmsted point, the visibility was near zero. The canyon to the right of the road toward Yosemite Valley, carved by the Merced river, was nowhere to be seen. By the time we got to the Valley floor, El Capitan, Half Dome and upper Yosemite Falls were “missing”. By the time we got to our son’s truck we felt seriously vindicated, in that even if we had continued we wouldn’t have been able to see “jack crap”…and therefore would have frozen our butts off for no good reason! To top it off, we read that on that Monday afternoon (while we were first dropping off the truck) a man had slipped off the cables while climbing Half Dome, and had fallen to his death. Moisture, cold and climbing, are always a bad combination. So, it seems that our adventure ended appropriately and in a timely fashion for all involved. And the beer we stashed in the creek at the Cathedral Lake trail head was still there. We each cracked one open. Although it was icy cold, it wasn’t as refreshing as it would have been having hiked up to it. On the way out of the park near the Wilderness permit office we found two PCT hikers (who had passed us as we were headed back to Agnew Meadows) and offered them beers. We asked how Donahue Pass was and how far the snow crept into the Lyle Creek meadow. “Oh, we postholed a bit up and over the Pass”, they replied with a sigh and wagging of their heads. They also told us that there was snow all the way to the meadow. So, it looks like we chose the best and safest option for our group. In reading a few of this year’s PCT blogs, many are still holding back from entering the Sierras, which in this case, and considering our recent experience, might be a pretty good idea.

With nothing much better to do, and considering it was Memorial Day Weekend, it seemed only prudent to head to Mule Days in Bishop, and check out the festivities! We have driven through Bishop for decades on our way to Mammoth and elsewhere, and have always seen the sign advertising “Mule Days” for Memorial Day weekend, but had never taken the time to go. This time, it seemed like the planets had alined and it was time to check this off the “bucket list”.

Mule Days, here we come!

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Retreat! Retreat!

As we lay in our sleeping bags replaying the events of the day and lamenting the fact we had only made it four arduous miles, of the 10 we had planned, we began to strategize for the following morning and frankly for the remainder of the trip. With our finish time constraint, we knew, considering our pace, we were not going to make Yosemite Valley via foot by Saturday. Tuoloumne Meadows, or the Cathedral Lake trailhead (where we had stashed a twelve pack of beer in the icy flowing creek), and a hitch into the valley for our truck became the plan. We we’re settled with that plan until we woke that morning. Paul just by chance took his phone off airplane mode and discovered we had “4G”… literally in the middle of nowhere. So rather than using our Delorme to check the “local” weather, he pulled it up on his phone. This was an unexpected blessing. What we discovered was that another storm front was moving in two days sooner than we originally had seen, so our window of “survivable” (for this group) weather had shrunk considerably. We figured if we were sleeping a little cold at night, the others had to surely be cold as well. The chance of becoming wetter and colder, on top of having to get to, and ascend and descend an 11,000 ft pass into the valley at Lyle Creek, that last we saw had a considerable amount of snow was for our group (half of which were novices) just plain stupid. While we carry a Delorme for emergencies, we would rather not have to use it, and/or create an opportunity to use it…if ya get my drift. Consistent and regular postholing is exhausting and often dangerous. Twice whilst postholing, I had gotten my foot “stuck” under a limb, but was able to react appropriately to dislodge it without injury. The depth and volume of snow for this area, should not have been such a problem for us, even with a bit of sun. The problem was the fact that most of this snow accumulated in March/April (doubling what had fallen this far) and did not have all “winter” to compact properly, thereby allowing us to walk on it without sinking so deep and often. Thus being only 10 miles from Agnew Meadows, and 16 miles from Tuoloumne (that included Donahue pass), we tucked our tail between our legs and opted for a retreat to Agnew Meadows. When the early morning alarms went off, and everyone was packed up, we unveiled our new plan. Surprisingly our new plan was met with a sigh of relief. Turns out, everyone was colder and more tired than they had let on, as well as a little anxious about going over Donahue Pass (11,056 ft) in these snowy conditions, but they trusted our judgement and experience implicitly enough to continue had we not decided to adjust our plan. Thus with a hearty ,”Hi! Ho!”, and without breakfast or coffee, we made a tactical retreat, and advanced to the rear, from whence we came, two days prior.

Just as we left, we ran into a group of PCT’rs who were continuing northbound. We had met Randy, and a South African gentleman (trail name – Saint Bernard) earlier in the week at the Mammoth Brewing Company. Joyous greetings were shared. We explained our predicament, and they all nodded with understanding. We wished each other safe travels, and were on our respective ways before the snow threatened to soften.

For our group, once we sounded “retreat”, it was like horses to the barn. Collectively we had never moved so fast.

Our plan was to get as far as we could, and hike out to the 4 miles to the Mammoth Mountain Main Lodge the next morning, before it began to rain too hard.

Holy Crap! We were on fire. We went 6 miles before we stopped for a break, and that only took us a little over 4 hours…snow and all! The “gravity” of downhill is wonderful.

Energized and hydrated we saddled up again.

One more (long) uphill, a few more”snow fields”, and a final sketchy hillside snow traverse and it was onto the switchbacks down to Agnew Meadows.

Our asses were dragging, and so we’re our feet, but we were all highly motivated. Not even a face plant or two into the snow and/or the dusty trail, nor a slip and fall during a minor creek crossing (resulting in near full soakage) could stop us… thankfully.

Soon the patches of snow began to “thin”. As we stomped through them, we left a trail of “snow donuts”.

Miraculously, we marched the 10 miles to Agnew Meadows in 8.5 hours! Paul and I had every intention of spending the night at Agnew Meadows, but the rest of the crew had been talking about Mexican food and margaritas, so they wanted to “charge” up the road and get our cars. They were done! So in Agnew Meadows as we lay atop the bear lockers, it was decided that the youngest and strongest legs would start up the road to the retrieve cars. The rest of us would move to the picnic table strategically placed next to the road (Postpile Rd) and rest for at least another hour and/or hope a car or truck (from the workers at Red’s Meadow area) would come by and we could “Yogi” a ride for at least one of us and our packs. We had decided that Kimberly would be the one to go up with our gear, as she had taken the hardest fall of the trip and had bruises and scratches to prove it. Not more than 5 minutes after our son and his girlfriend headed up the road, a truck coming from Red’s Meadow area approached. I leapt (at least it felt like I had) from the picnic table we were now lounging upon and flagged the truck down. I motioned towards Kimberly saying that one of our group was injured, and asked if it was at all possible to give her (and maybe our gear) a ride to the Mammoth Lodge. Meanwhile, Kimberly was doing a great job looking miserable and in pain. The driver asked, “Well, what about the rest of you? Don’t you want a ride too?” Could this really be happening? Stunned that we would be so lucky, I stuttered that if they were offering, we would gladly take a ride up the hill. The driver responded that they had some work to finish up, but could take us all in about 20 minutes, if that was “okay” with us. ‘Take all the time you need, we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon’, I told them. With that, we hailed our son and his girlfriend back, and then promptly laid on the side of the road, soaking up the warmth of the asphault and intermittent sun.

Once the truck returned, Kimberly hobbled to the cab of the truck, and the rest of us piled into the bed. As luck would have it, 2 miles before we reached the Lodge, it began to rain.

We started to laugh and couldn’t help but admire the irony, in that it was only fitting that just as we started this adventure…in the rain, so should we end it…in the rain.

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Postholers Paradise

Well last night was far from warm and dry. No sooner than we ducked into our tents, a steady patter of rain began to fall that lasted most of the night. By morning light it had stopped, and a good portion of the snow that originally surrounded us had retreated. We put on our still damp clothes, slipped into our cold wet shoes, packed up our wet tents, had a hot coffee and breakfast and we were on our way…uphill of course.

As we started out, a PCT hiker passed us moving quickly (I miss those days…of moving quickly). It is the first person we’ve seen so far on the trail, and considering the conditions, we aren’t suprised. He did however lay down a nice track for us to follow in the snow, of which we confirmed via the blazes carved into the trees periodically.

We, however, are paying for our seemingly late start this morning, as the snow was already “soft” much earlier than expected. Even yesterday it “held” till at least noon. By 10am, the snow melt had created a river in the well worn trough of a trail, and where snow had accumulated, we were often falling through the snow unexpectedly in areas (of shade) that still should have been pretty solid.

But for all its trouble, the views and the experience with friends and family is more than worth it.

I have to say, the girls are remarkable troopers for being “novices”. Not a complaint, not a whimper. Smiles on their faces, even when hip deep in snow…not by “choice”. Our poor son, who is tall, thick and “strong like bull”, spent a good portion of his time pulling one leg or both out the snow. His girlfriend has given him the trail name, “Sink”.

When we got to Thousand Island lake (9840 ft, PCT mile 922.92), we stopped for lunch and a “yard sale” in order to dry out our sopping wet gear. As we sit, we ponder the trail ahead, our goal now is to get up and over Island Pass and immediately find a place to camp…at a little lower elevation before attempting the climb up and over Donahue pass and down to Toulomne Meadows.

Dry, warm and “energized”, we set off into the frosted paradise.

At 3pm, a tenth of a mile from Island Pass (10205 ft), we are regularly waist deep and literally swimming in snow.

At this point I cannot feel my feet. They are frozen and I’m sure I’m working on a case of frost nip, if not frostbite if we continue much further. The brightly shining sun is a blessing and a curse, as it has softened the snow too much for us to safely continue.

Even with a nearly clear path (as in where to go) we only made 4 miles today before we called it quits and retreated to a relatively “dry” island in a sea of snow, to thaw and dry out before trying it again the next morning, at a seriously EARLY hour. I can say with absolute conviction, that I will NOT gain a single pound on this trip eating all the crap I have in my bear canister as I am sure I burnt more than a couple thousand calories walking through, swimming, and digging my legs out of the equivalent of wet cement.

Part of our reason for calling it for the day, beside being practically exhausted was that we could not be confident that there would even be a patch of dry Terra firma in which to set up our “3-season” tents, if/when we descend from Island Pass. At this point we had viable options. Had we more energy (and at least two more hours of guaranteed daylight), as well as hearty “4-season” tents, snowshoes and shovels we would have continued. (Snowshoes would be worth their weight in gold at this point. We would be at the base of Donahue by now. The microspikes give you traction, but snowshoes would have given us loft…and traction.). Thus common sense gave way to ego and that other little voice that always says to us, “Let’s just go 2 more miles.”

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Here goes nothin’

Up early enough, but day one of trips are always a little disorganized, no matter how much planning you do. Our goal this morning is 11 miles, which may be a bit overzealous, considering we had 2 extra miles of road walking tacked onto the start of this trip.

Like clockwork, the moment we stepped out of the cars to be dropped off, it began to rain. Now per the weather man this was not supposed to happen till between 3 and 5 pm. Oh to have a job where I get paid even if I’m wrong. All assembled we post for a team photo, ready for the weather. Paul has decided to call our team “2 by 4” (2 guys and 4 gals…get it?)

At least it wasn’t a hard rain.

Soon we we’re to the PCT northbound trailhead at Agnew Meadows, and so began the climb with fully loaded packs for five nights in the Sierras, with a finish in Yosemite valley.

Eventually the rain stopped and the sun shined brightly, allowing us to burn off the chill, but it did no good for our sopping wet feet. At some point early on there was no use trying to keep our feet “dry”, as last night’s torrential downpour, which we are told was a record rainfall for the area, seemed to want to use the trail as it’s canal.

Squish, plod, squish went the day, accented by patches and outright fields of postholio snow. WTF!? It is only now that I remember how much work trompsing through the snow was. I swear it was easier 4 years ago. But then, by this time we were in fabulous PCT thru-hiker shape.

Amazingly we made it a mile short of our goal, which was okay, cause we were all gassed, and needed to get a fire going so that we could thaw out before night fall, and another predicted bout of rain/hail… possibly snow. We did our best to dry out our stuff, knowing full well we would be putting perfectly warm and dry feet/socks into damp and practically frozen shoes the next morning. Handfuls of Advil for all and off to our respective beds for the night in the hope that it wouldn’t rain too hard, and that we would reach the set up for Donahue pass for the next morning.

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A little snow will do ya

A steady and heavy rainfall all last night kept me tossing and turning, wondering if Tioga road would actually be opened today. Nothing left but to try it out. The skies were dark and moisture continued to fall from the sky. As we approached the hwy 120 turn off (that is Tioga rd.), a sign blinked, “Tioga road is open”. Phew! As we made our left turn, we could not help but notice all the snow. The road was wet with no chance of drying anytime soon. We watched as the outside temperature gauge dropped from 55° to 37°, and then began the sleet. The temperature then dropped to 34° and large flakes of snow began to fall. This is near end of May right? We of course know better than to pigeonhole weather into months these days as everything is so topsy turvy and predictably unpredictable. Mother Nature you have seemingly out done yourself for this adventure, and it hasn’t officially started yet. Excited, I have Paul pull over so I can get out and take a picture of the still ice covered lake, but more importantly, to catch a few flakes on my tongue.

Had we not had a timeline to stick to, I would have lingered a bit more collecting snow on my tongue. Back into the car I hop. Snow flurries continue for a few miles and make way for crisp clear air, with snow topped mountains in the distance (of which we’ll be traversing over tomorrow) and vast green Meadows with lingering patches of snow. We drive by the Toulomne Meadows campground and store. Both are shuttered up, and far from opening. As we pass the Cathedral lake trail head, the skies clear a bit. The park is sparsely populated, but we know that will change once we get to the valley floor. As we reach Olmsted pass the clouds have dipped low, creating a dense fog that practically obscures the road, reminding me of my travels for work, up the I-5 in the suffocating tule fog. 45 minutes later we are nearing the valley floor. Cars and people everywhere. Half dome peaks out of the clouds and upper and lower Yosemite falls are roaring. We park our son’s truck in the Half Dome Village (formerly, Curry Village) and walk to the Yosemite Village area where Sandy and Steve have parked to take a short walk to lower Yosemite falls while we get everything situated. Rain begins to fall softly. People continue about their business. Thunder roars and the skies open up. As we have no way to avoid it, we walk briskly through the rain, playing “Marco Polo” with Sandy and Steve via texts, until we are reunited for yet another beer and the drive back to the house for final preparations.

Tomorrow we begin, and as luck would have it, the weather forecast show a day full of rain. Go figure. I am hoping that the rain will fall elsewhere.

Stay tuned…it may be a day or two for another post as we head into the Sierras.

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